Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Bionic hearing earbuds and bladeless wind turbines

At any given moment there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the Web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there – alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the Pebble clones and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Vortex — Bladeless wind turbines

Vortex Bladeless

Instead of capturing energy through the circular motion of a propellor, Vortex turbines take advantage of a physical phenomenon known as vorticity — an aerodynamic effect that creates a pattern of spinning vortices or whirlwinds. Think about the little eddies that form around the edge of a canoe paddle when you move it through the water. This is the same principle — except substituting air instead for water, of course, and with the air moving around a stationary paddle (the turbine) that sticks out of the ground.

As the wind blows past the turbine, little whirlwinds are created behind it, and when they get big enough, they cause the structure to oscillate. This kinetic energy is then used to power an alternator, which multiplies the frequency of the tower’s oscillation and converts the motion in to usable electricity. The result? A drastically cheaper wind turbine. Vortex claims that its design can reduce manufacturing costs by 53 percent, cut maintenance costs by 80 percent, and would represent a 40 percent reduction in both the carbon footprint and generation costs when compared to conventional bladed wind turbines.

Find this campaign on Indiegogo

Here — Bionic hearing earbuds

Here Active Listening

Here is essentially a set of wireless earbuds that give you the ability to selectively filter and amplify sounds from the world around you in real time — allowing you to fine-tune your hearing for certain environments. If properly adjusted, this little gizmo (which its creators refer to as the world’s first “hearable tech” device) could help you do things like hear your dining partner better in a crowded restaurant, understand your friends at loud concerts without them screaming in your ear, or even eavesdrop on people from the other side of a room.

The way it works is pretty straightforward. On the outward-facing part of the earbuds, there’s a set of microphones. These pick up audio from the surrounding world, which is then sent through a digital signal processor (DSP), and subsequently played into your ears with no perceivable latency (i.e. under 30 microseconds). With the help of an accompanying smartphone app, you can adjust how the DSP behaves, and make the headphones produce sound waves that add, remove, or augment the original audio signal. It’s basically like having a volume knob and EQ settings for every single sound that enters your ears.

Find this campaign on Kickstarter

Oval — Digital hang drum

Oval Sound

Ever heard somebody play a hang drum? It’s a pretty dope little instrument. Invented just barely over a decade ago, it’s become immensely popular in the past few years, popping up in the laps of everyone from street musicians to professional recording artists. Part of the reason it’s become so popular is because it’s mechanically simple, and users can produce that sweet steel-drum-like sound by simply tapping a hand on one of the hang’s dimples. Bigger dimples make deep noises, smaller ones make higher noises.

But for all the drum’s simplicity, it’s also a bit limited. Most only have about seven or eight different notes you can play, so in order to get different notes, you need to get a completely different size of drum. That’s where Oval comes in. It’s basically an electronic version of the original hang drum, which allows users to customize the sounds each dimple makes, but still play in the same fashion as they did before.

Find this campaign on Kickstarter

HidrateMe — Smart water bottle


Smart water bottles are nothing new, but this one is noteworthy for a couple reasons. The real selling point behind the HidrateMe bottle is its app-supported hydration-tracking technology. The app, which will be a free download available on Android and iOS devices, provides a daily drinking goal based on information about your height, weight, gender, age, and activity level. The app syncs up with the water bottle’s integrated water-level sensor via Bluetooth and actively tracks your water intake. When you’re running behind schedule, LEDs inside the bottle’s electrical module light up, providing a visual prompt directly from the bottle.

The accompanying smartphone app provides a more detailed analysis of your daily hydration. It can also pull in location-based temperature, humidity and elevation data to adjust your daily hydration goals and will be able to integrate with fitness trackers like those from Fitbit and Jawbone.

Find this campaign on Kickstarter

Look — Auto-updating digital photo frame

Artkick Look

On the surface, Look is just another sleek, snazzy, network-enabled display intended to hang on your wall and showcase digital art. We’ve seen plenty of these on Kickstarter before. Using an accompanying smartphone app, you can load different images onto it and swap them out as you see fit; so it’s basically a souped-up version of those kitschy digital picture frames that were mildly popular five or six years ago. It’s not exactly a new idea at this point, but Look does have a few notable features that make it stand out from the crowd.

Most notably, unlike some of its competitors, Look has the unique ability to automatically pull images from your social media accounts. Just link up your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever else to the Look app, and it’ll immediately grab pictures whenever you post them — no cumbersome manual updates required. Other frames allow you to update the images you display, but Look takes the next step and refreshes your photo stream autonomously. Pretty cool!

Find this campaign on Kickstarter

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Sennheiser brings audio perfection to wireless earbuds like no one else can

Sennheiser took its time entering the true wireless earbud market, and the results are what you’d expect from the storied audio brand. The new Momentum offer seamless operation, best-in-class sound, and a high price tag to match.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

An acclaimed Apple analyst says the new AirPods are coming in 2019

Apple plans to release new AirPods much the same as it does new iPhones, and a wireless charging case, water resistance, and better Siri integration are among the improvements we can expect in future models.
Emerging Tech

This implant goes beyond pacemakers, helps aging hearts beat more vigorously

The FDA's advisory committee has voted to recommend an innovative pacemaker-style gadget be approved in the U.S. The Optimizer Smart Implantable Pulse Generator boosts performance, strength, and pumping ability of weakened heart chambers.
Emerging Tech

This exotic new material somehow gets thicker when stretched

Scientists at the U.K.’s University of Leeds have discovered a synthetic material which actually gets thicker the more it’s stretched. Here are some of the things it could be used for.
Emerging Tech

Early-detection system for wildfires could save many states from big burns

When it comes to dealing with the growing problem of raging wildfires, a new wireless smart sensor system could help spot burgeoning blazes before they rage out of control. Here's how it works.

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk to unveil tunnel elevators and autonomous pods on December 18

We'll soon learn if Elon Musk's high-speed tunnel plan is a serious effort at ending traffic jams or little more than a fancy theme park ride. A big unveiling event is coming on December 18, a week later than originally planned.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.